When the body of Violet Feverel is discovered on the Central Park bridle path, Inspector Oscar Piper is about to declare her death accidental from a thrown horse, until his friend and amateur detective Hildegarde Withers locates the horse and discovers blood on the horse. The coroner deems it a murder when the cause of death is shown to be by a blunt instrument on the victim's head. The suspects include Violet's ex-husband, Don Gregg, who she jailed for nonpayment of alimony, but who was just released by a forged court order; Latigo Wells, the manager of Violet's stables and who had an argument with her that morning; and Eddie Fry, who had quarreled with Violet over his seeing her sister, Barbara Foley, and who was about to elope with Barbara. At Don's Long Island home, Hildegarde and Oscar meet his sickly father, Patrick, the caretaker, Chris Thomas, and his crippled son, Joey. After Patrick is murdered, Hildegarde snoops around and discovers clues which pinpoint the murderer, who is... Written by
Arthur Hausner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This series started out as one of the many experiments in building a detective narrative (where we share the unrolling of the narrative with a character) based on specific personality types. The original idea was to harden the Miss Marple type and recast her as brusque matron with a mischievous bent. And the detective would be a snappy, skinny hardnosed type who ends up a softy with this schoolmarm. In the first episode, they actually run off to get married, a situation forgotten later.
But all these experiments ran out of gas, even the "Thin Man" thread. By this edition, we have a whole different set of goals, and of course a different Hildegard. This woman isn't old, imperious, thickbottomed and selfish. She's a much hipper soul and in any case she doesn't have the focus any more.
And despite there being a younger sister cast for her figure, this is all about the men. And the characters we (as guys) create. Its nothing more than that, and as big as that. (The plot revolves around an exhusband thrown in "alimony jail" because of slow payments.)
Gleason is at his most extreme, strutting with a smile. Its a smile of an actor winking at the audience, something that was passed through (in my small experience) Red Skelton, Burt Reynolds, Bruce Willis.
But the extraordinary thing and this may not be readable to some is that it is all done by acting with hats. Its an amazing experience. These are theatrical hats, a bit over-sized. All the important facial expressions have a hat equivalent or compliment.
One of the men actors is a black man playing a specific character type, a dim, stepinfetchit "boy" named Highpockets. In life, it reflects as a stereotype and is harmful because no one can deny racism. But as a character its fantastic and comes less from society directly than a long and honorable stage minstrel tradition, Watch his hat.
There are other "stereotypes," a dumb Irishman, a stilted German... but none as gracefully presented.
If the world were all hats, there would be no problems, no war, except maybe alimony.
Its set in Central Park, though not actually shot there. Too bad.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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